Hussein Chalayan -dance director at Sadler's Wells theatre, London _ itintandem


Let’s try for a moment to think of the words fashion and art. How they appear in our heads? Probably in most of us they will appear connected by a conjunction and, as well as if we were to think for example to “Bonnie and Clyde”, to “milk and coffee” to “black and white” or any inseparable combination pair. But why?

Art and fashion are really something closely related to each other? And maybe so has always been?
It would be interesting, to address these questions, to repeat the two words mental visualization , this time trying to reflect upon more carefully. Probably almost everyone would have assailed by doubts and query on their actual bond or the possible comparison between fashion and art. The result is an interesting contrast between an instinctive and almost natural connection between the two terms and instead a signifying values and meanings contraposition.

Where resides, therefore, the conclusion and the answer to these resulting questions? To find it you need to look to the essence of what we may call two of countless art worlds, as defined by sociologist H.S. Becker, which explains the operation of the latter as parts of a unitary organism, consisting of a collectivity of intent and needs, but whose manifestations are developed independently and extremely different.

Issey Miyake ss1990 , Met New York City 2Issey Miyake for Miyake Design Studio, Spring Summer 1994

Issey Miyake ss1990 , Met New York City 2Issey Miyake for Miyake Design Studio, Spring Summer 1994

As examples we may consider Futurism, historically the first Italian avant-garde, whose values and foundations are simultaneously manifested in art, literature, fashion and other cultural circles of the time. In this case, however, is simple to find a unitary conducting wire, since it often were the same futurists to make explicit the connection and the necessary adhesion to the movement of each aspect of the culture. It ‘also clear that, despite its widespread diffusion, Futurism is known and appreciated before, and above all, as an “artistic” movement, in its most specific meaning. It is natural then – here as in other cases of this kind – to consider art as a driving strength and undisputed propulsor of the other worlds, whose expressions are derived from the “central core” explotion.

Fashion, in particular, it’s always been the most affected victims of this vision of the various artistic spheres: its essence is more often belittled in front of the force of the most enduring and less “ephemeral” cultural expressions.

What happens, though, when even art becomes less permanent, less immortal? Many scholars actually have highlighted how, now more frequently, art is subject to the fashion changes and rhythms . And even at the conceptual and formal level, it shifts more and more towards those expressive manifestations that refer and run out in a specific time – as in the performing arts case – preferring the whole post-modern emotion of the present. Therefore today it’s natural to connect symbiotically these two worlds; in the past, on the contrary, this bond was more intended as flattery and subsequent art emulation by fashion.


Let’s consider some collaborations between designers and artists, trying to clarify whether indeed there is an implicit degree of subordination, or less, of one towards the other. For example in the historic alliance between the designer Elsa Schiaparelli and the surrealists, Dali in particular, we generally talk of quotes – as in the case of Mila Schon collections inspired by Lucio Fontana cuts – therefore art reinterpretations through their clothes. Over time, however, the collaborations between fashion and art have changed, transformed and evolved – becoming something more intrinsic and significant – probably because in the first place the areas have changed.

In the work of designers like Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake o Hussein Chalayan the presence of something other than the single aesthetic or function is so obvious that “the rarely viewer tries to figure out whether they are art or fashion, exactly as Wagner viewer does not It asks whether it is music or theater “(R. Martin, a Note: Art & Fashion, Viktor & Rolf, in” Fashion Theory “, 1999). Here, then, fashion doesn’t use the art, but becomes able to create it’s own personal version of it.

What we can conclude is that, therefore, fashion and art are very different and at the same time strikingly similar. Both manage to catalyze change through visual and sensory expression, both convey through aesthetic the messages often radical and otherwise ignored by most and they manage to give back with creativity contrasts and illusions of the society around us. They are part of a network where they can move freely and independently, but whose inevitably belong together.

At this moment more than ever art and fashion – at least a part of this – become simultaneously travelers of a unique faceted path, the one that brings the worlds of art to clash, to merge and expand themselves in a continuous and exponential evolution .